The Norfolk men and their mighty machines

When The Starting Handle Club was established 40 years ago who knew that it would take the members on a journey to celebrate the part machinery has played over the years, says Derek James.

It was almost 40 years ago when a bunch of Norfolk gentlemen got together for a mardle over machinery – it was an interest they shared with such a passion.

The late, great and pioneering agricultural machinery expert and businessman Ben Burgess suggested they form a club or society so they could meet up on a regular basis with their machines, which had become treasured collectors items.

It was proposed that Joe Parker of Worstead be chairman and his late wife Ruby, secretary, along with half a dozen committee members, including a representative from over the border in Suffolk.

The first show the club took part in was the Worstead Festival in 1974, followed by the Aylsham Show and then the Royal Norfolk Show.

Ever since then, they have appeared at the events every year with their range of machinery, large and small, expanding all the time and attracting more and more interest.

And earlier this year the club won the award for Best Stand at the Royal Norfolk Show, which thousands of people loved looking at and browsing over.

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It was a real honour for them and a pat on the back for all the members who work so hard getting their treasured machines to the show – and looking so good.

Their stand illustrated what the show is all about, telling the Norfolk story and illustrating life in our county – and the part machinery has played over the years.

Now members are putting the finishing touches to their own show this weekend – a real old-fashioned country knees-up which offers a good value day out for the whole family.

And is not just machines on display – other attractions include heavy horses and dogs.

One of the organisers, Bob Parke, said they had more than 1,000 visitors at their first show last year and are hoping for an even bigger turnout this year.

'We now have about 200 members and there will be about 300 exhibitions along with a host of other attractions. There is, we think, something for everybody, interested in a good, old fashioned country show,' said Bob.

And one of the highlights is a display remembering the glory days of Norwich Speedway at the fabulous Firs. It may have closed back in 1964, but the memories are as strong as ever and the interest has been passed down to the next generation.